How To Become A Counselor And Help Others

Updated August 21, 2023by MyTherapist Editorial Team

Find Your Own Counselor

Being a counselor can be a rewarding career. Counselors spend their time helping others, connecting with people from different backgrounds, and learning more about humanity with each client. That said, not everyone is cut out to be a counselor. Counseling is much more than just talking to people. It involves years of study, an understanding of the human condition, and a lot of empathy. 

If you have people skills, are empathetic, and love talking to people, a career in counseling could be for you. In this article, we will give a brief overview of how you can become a counselor and help other people.

What Type Of Counselor Do You Want To Be?

The word "counselor" is quite vague. It can apply to many careers, and it's up to you to figure out which type of counseling job you want to pursue. Consider the kind of people you want to work with and the work environment you would prefer. Some counselors work with children, while others are focused on the elderly. Some counselors work in schools, some in hospitals, and others in a corporate setting. You may need to do some exploring to find out what works for you. 

Here are a few examples of counseling jobs you can pursue:

  • Marriage counseling. A marriage counselor helps married couples and other people in relationships fix their problems. This type of counselor understands why many relationships fail and can use their skills to help keep a marriage together. A good marriage counselor can help to fix a broken relationship or make a couple feel like they're young again. Sometimes, a marriage counselor isn't fixing broken marriages per se. They may be strengthening a good marriage or shepherding a couple through a divorce. It all depends on the couple and their situation.

  • Career counseling. This counseling job involves helping people pick out their careers and help them manage them. There are many tasks you may do as a career counselor. You can help a teenager decide what field they want to pursue once they go to college. You can help someone in college decide on a degree if they keep changing it. A career counselor can help someone just out of college find the job that's right for them. A career counselor can also help people overcome obstacles at their job or switch jobs if they want to get on a new career path.

  • Mental health counseling. Mental health counselors help those who have mental health issues. There are many types of mental health counselors. Sometimes, you'll be helping someone who has no severe problems but just wants to improve their mental well-being. Other times, you may be faced with a more challenging client, such as one who is dealing with severe depression. A mental health counselor realizes that each situation is different, but there are common techniques that can be used to treat mental illness. Mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy can help many mental health situations and can help people have peace of mind.

  • Substance abuse counselor. When someone has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, a substance abuse counselor can help them stay clean and off drugs. It can be hard for someone to stay off drugs because the brain changes once someone becomes an addict. Thus, there is a need for drug counseling. A substance abuse counselor knows how the mind works and can work with the client to help identify the various triggers that can lead to relapse. If the patient relapses, a counselor can then encourage them and help them continue on the right path. This career requires much patience and perseverance.

  • School counseling. School counselors help children deal with their problems. Learning disabilities, trouble with behaviors, helping the children do their best, and providing resources for the future are just a few things that school counselors can do for the public. They can work with schools and create programs that can help children learn the best they can. School counseling applies to various education systems, and you need to know how people in certain age ranges work. Talking to an elementary school student is much different than a high schooler. You may pursue a degree in college counseling as well.

  • Grief counselor. A grief counselor helps people overcome the loss of their loved one. Everyone goes through loss and grieves, but some people cannot function after the death of their loved one. This can be due to trauma, the strong relationship the person had with the deceased, or many other factors. The job of a grief counselor isn't to help the person "get over" the death of their loved one, but instead teach them how they can grieve healthily and find a purpose in life once again. It's a rewarding career, but one that requires intense empathy.

These are just a few out of the many careers counseling has to offer. Do your research and find which is your passion. 

The Education Requirements To Become A Counselor

Find Your Own Counselor

Most counseling jobs require many years of higher education, with the first step being to get your bachelor's degree. This is a four-year degree, and if you want to be a counselor, you should consider getting your degree in psychology, sociology, education, or another relevant field that may be related to the type of counselor you want to be. For example, if you want to be a school counselor, an education-related degree might be the best choice.

Talk to your advisor about where you envision yourself to see what relevant degrees you can pursue, and this can help you narrow it down. Once you get your bachelor's, your education is far from over.

A master's degree is required for most counseling jobs. It's not impossible to get a counseling job with a bachelor's degree, but it may be a challenge. You need to get a master's in counseling or a relevant field. Figure out what type of counseling career you want to pursue and find the master's degree the most relevant to that.

The master's degree journey can be tough, but it's one you must complete if you want to become a counselor. Just know that as a counselor, your education never ends. You're always learning more about people, and how we understand the brain and the human condition is ever evolving. What we believe is fact today may be proven wrong tomorrow. A good counselor will know how to adapt to all these changes.

You may also want to pursue a doctoral degree to become a counselor, but this all depends on what type of counseling job you're pursuing. Your advisor can help you decide if a doctorate is necessary for the counseling job you desire.

An internship can give you experience as you work through your education. You may work as an assistant to other counselors or counsel people while being supervised. This can be a great opportunity to learn more about the different types of counseling out there and to get practice in different environments.

Getting Your License

Once you have obtained all your degrees, it's time to become a licensed counselor. To be a reputable counselor, you need your license. Your license applies to all 50 states, but each state exam is a little different. You should research the license requirements in your state to determine what you need. You may need to take an exam, go through supervised experience, or perform other activities to prove you can be a counselor. It all depends on where you live. 

With a license in hand, you can go about finding your dream counseling job. It may take some time, and you may need to work at some jobs that don't quite match your vision first, but with some practice and hard work, you can get the position you envisioned and be helping the population you dreamed of helping.


As you journey to become a counselor, you may find it to be a stressful career path. You'll be faced with mountains of assignments, internships, and much more. It's normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed, and there is no shame in talking to a counselor of your own to help you. Everyone could use a counselor, and that includes current and future counselors as well.

You can find help in a number of ways. Your school may offer counseling for students, or you may seek an in-person counselor to help you work through your stress. If you're busy enough, you may want to look at online options. Online therapy is increasing in popularity due to its convenience and affordability. When you have a busy class schedule, you may not have time to fit in a trip to the counselor's office. You may want to just schedule an online appointment for a time that works for you.

One online therapy platform to consider is BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers access to licensed counselors who can work with you via text, telephone, or video call. They can be a resource for working through whatever issues you're dealing with as well as a resource for the career you've chosen (if you've chosen to be a counselor).

While you're being educated, a counselor can help you employ techniques to keep you organized, calm, and determined. If you feel like you're overwhelmed, it's worth it to talk to someone so you can do your best at school, at your internship, or beyond.

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